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Framing Assumption (FA)

APMT 032


Any supposition that is central in shaping cost, schedule, or performance expectations of an acquisition program.

General Information

A Framing Assumption (FA) is any explicit or implicit assumption that is central in shaping cost, schedule, or performance expectations of an acquisition program. FAs may change over the course of execution, or new ones may be added.

Program managers (PMs) create and track FAs to inform acquisition leaders about key program assumptions, stimulate discussion of their validity, and establish a context for program assessments.

A program generally has a small number (3–5) of FAs with the following attributes:

  • Critical:  Significantly affects program expectations
  • No work-arounds:  Consequences cannot be easily mitigated
  • FoundationalNot derivative of other assumptions
  • Program specific Not generically applicable to all programs

FAs are created and "owned" by the PM and reviewed and approved by acquisition leaders.

[DoDI 5000.88] A concept design review, conducted before the materiel development decision, establishes the initial concept baseline(s). The concept design review, chaired by a USD(R&E) representative for joint missions and by the applicable Service representative for Service-specific missions, should include:
(1) Framing assumptions.
(2) Capabilities-based assessment.
(3) Initial capabilities document.
(4) Concept design trade matrix.
(5) Mission Engineering (ME) analysis.
(6) A concept of operations (CONOPS) or Operational Mode Summary/Mission Profile.
(7) Assessment of program risks along with technology development and other risk mitigation activities, appropriate affordability targets, and initial schedule basis.
(8) Cyber security assessment.

FAs must be presented at Milestone (MS) A and B reviews and described in the program Acquisition Strategy that corresponds to these milestones. MS A FAs must be re-evaluated at MS B to account for program changes. FAs and their status must be included in Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) reviews and Defense Acquisition Executive Summary (DAES) reports.

PMs must identify FAs, continuously monitor the validity of FAs, and use them in assessments:

  • In developing FAs, PMs ensure they consider suppositions that are commonly believed to be true. When FAs that are assumed true at or prior to program initiation in fact turn out to be false, grave consequences may result.
  • To use FAs as a management tool, the PM identifies associated Implications, Expectations, and Metrics.
  • The validity of each FA is monitored by tracking Metrics, Expectations, and Implications during program execution.
  • Because an invalid FA likely has multiple implications, FA tracking may provide early warning of unanticipated risks or issues.

Some sources of FAs include:

  • Technological and engineering challenges
  • Cost, schedule, and requirements trade-offs
  • Effectiveness of program-specific managerial or organizational structures (particularly for joint or combined programs)
  • Suitability of contractual terms and incentives to deliver specific expected outcomes
  • Interdependencies with other programs
  • Industrial base, market or political considerations

The Office of Acquisition, Analytics and Policy (AAP) provides a Framing Assumptions information paper with guidance on FA statements which shape cost, schedule, or performance expectations of an acqusition program.